At Wednesday’s CNN Republican presidential debate, an intense debate broke out over marijuana prohibition and medical marijuana as host Jake Tapper attempted to pit N.J. Governor Chris Christie, who said he would enforce federal pot prohibition laws against states that have legalized it, against U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who supports shifting away from harsh War on Drugs criminal penalties.
In the above-embedded video, Senator Paul can be seen beginning his response by pointing out the hypocrisy of those who themselves once used marijuana but who now support imposing criminal penalties on others who use it. “There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t,” said Paul.
Though Paul stopped short of naming names and suggested that all of the candidates on the stage should discuss whether they used pot in high school, Jake Tapper pressed, “Is there somebody you were specifically thinking of?”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush interjected, “He was talking about me… So, 40 years ago, I smoked marijuana, and I admit it. I’m sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did.”
Bush pointed to a rising heroin epidemic in New Hampshire and said, “It is appropriate for the government to play a consistent role to be able to provide more treatment, more prevention — we’re the state that has the most drug courts across every circuit in — in — in Florida, there are drug courts to give people a second chance… That’s the best way to do this.”
During the exchange, Paul pointed out the fact that Bush has specifically voted and campaigned for criminal penalties for medical marijuana. “Under the current circumstances, kids who had privilege like you do don’t go to jail, but the poor kids in our inner cities go to jail. I don’t think that’s fair. And I think we need to acknowledge it, and it is hypocritical to still want to put poor people in jail…”
Though Bush responded that he did not want to “put poor people in jail,” he went on to say:
[pull_quote_center] Medical marijuana on the ballot was opened up. There was a huge loophole. It was the first step to getting to a Colorado place. And as a citizen of Florida, I voted no.[/pull_quote_center]
The debate continued as Christie doubled down on his position calling for federal enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
Carly Fiorina, who explained that she lost a child to drug addiction, said, “I agree with Senator Paul. I agree with states’ rights. But we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It’s not. And the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.”
“We do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for non-violent offenses, mostly drug related. It’s clearly not working,” added Fiorina.
For more election coverage, click here.
Back in September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode exposing the federal government’s mixed messages on medical marijuana. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.